fiiiiinally finished the endless game i’ve been plodding my way through, final fantasy tactics for the original playstation. i’d been aware of the game ever since i began my obsession with the fire emblem series, and also b/c the follow-up on the GBA seems to regularly get mentioned in “top GBA games of all time” lists.
having been focused solely on fire emblem there were a lot of adjustments i had to make to playing FF tactics. there’s the isometric view, and the way the battle time advances took some getting used to since you have to constantly check the menus and time meters to see whose turn is coming up next and remind yourself of what commands the enemy has already entered in. one of the main differences between FE and FF tactics is that characters can die but aren’t permanently lost unless they miss three of their turns without being brought back to life. the other main difference is that the majority of your time is spent using “generic” characters who take no part in the story. (although you do get more unique, named characters with their own special abilities later, and eventually they can completely replace your original party if you choose.)
despite the learning curve in general i think my FE experience helped and i didn’t have much of a problem beating the game, although the game seemed to drag on and on. looking back it prob. didn’t take any more time than a FE game, but there were quite a few drawbacks that made the game a chore to finish. i agree with a lot of what the entry on wikipedia says:
Criticism is made on gameplay, plot and the localization effort. One of the reviews of RPGFan criticized the difficulty of the game as being inconsistent with each encounter against enemy units. The factors that influence the difficulty of the game include overpowered enemy units or party members, and time had to be taken to level up before any progress can be made. Though in-depth, IGN also noted that the game’s plot was confusing at times … The game’s localization effort was criticized by reviewers as poorly written, being rife with grammatical mistakes that almost stopped players from enjoying the storyline.
of those complaints, the main one for me was that the story is so lousy. half the time i didn’t really know who was doing what to whom, nor did i ever care. on top of that the localization is one of the absolute worst i’ve ever encountered with tons of awkward as well as flat-out incorrect writing, which is a major problem for a text-heavy RPG. as for the level grinding, this wasn’t too much of a problem and i sort of expected it since the game has a fair amount of emphasis on random battles (unlike almost all the FE games where there are no random battles). the main exception to my general feeling that the amount of level grinding is tolerable is that at one point about halfway through i inadvertently overlevelled the main character, ramza, and everyone else in my party was way underlevelled in comparison. i hadn’t realized that random encounters base the enemies’ stats on your most powerful character, so i was pretty much screwed fighting stupidly tough random battles until i was able to bring the rest of the party up to ramza’s level. one other thing that annoyed me was that unlike FE you don’t get to preview the map before you start it, so you can’t adjust your equipment or characters at all. even setting the start positions of your characters is a virtually completely blind process.
quite a number of complaints, but as for the good stuff the graphics, although more cartoon-y than i’m used to, are generally well done, with great character design, pretty good environments, and some great battle effects. the gameplay is pretty solid, although i was surprised that the central game mechanic isn’t the battle system so much as the game’s character class system, which is robust and well designed. basically every generic character starts off as either a squire or a chemist. after you reach a certain level you can then change class (a squire can become a knight or an archer and a chemist can become a priest or a wizard). after you reach a certain level in those classes you can change to even more advanced classes. this built-in progression of classes keeps the game feeling fresh, and it’s a lot of fun to experiment with the different classes and combine the abilities of the various classes, although some of the classes and their abilities def. seem like useless padding. there are also a ton of other extra game elements that i didn’t bother getting into b/c they just seemed useless, namely the “propositions” in which you send some of your party away for some time to fulfill missions that you don’t monitor at all and get only paltry rewards for completing; the monster recruitment where you can get monsters to join your party but who don’t change classes and generally don’t have many useful abilities; and the monster “poaching” where you can sell monsters you’ve killed for special items. there are also two lengthy sidequests (the deep dungeon and the quest to get cloud from FFVII) that i had absolutely no interest in embarking upon.
phew! even though i’m ecstatic that i can finally stop playing this game the game was actually pretty good overall; a better story would’ve been a major improvement. i’ll keep the GBA FF tactics on my list of games to play, although from what i’ve read it doesn’t sound like there’s much of a story there either so it’ll prob. be quite some time before i try it out. may try one of the tactics ogre games instead.
finally! some fantastically tactical links:
– battle mechanics guide: indispensible reference for the underlying equations for the game engine
– great fan site at squarehaven.com with tons of great stuff, inc. a great guide to all the jobs, the full script, and official jobs artwork and summons artwork.
– pretty good general FAQ: with class info, battle strategies, and more
– another good FAQ
– youtube video of the main parts of the cloud sidequest
– useful FAQ on what the brave and faith stats do